Europe installed 3.6 GW of new offshore wind capacity in 2019, statistics released on 6 February by WindEurope showed. This is a new record in annual installations.

According to WindEurope, 10 new offshore wind farms came online across 5 countries. The UK accounted for nearly half of the new capacity with 1.7 GW. Then came Germany (1.1 GW), Denmark (374 MW) and Belgium (370 MW). And Portugal installed 8 MW of floating offshore wind. Europe now has 22 GW of offshore wind. The UK and Germany account for three-quarters of it. Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands share nearly all of the rest.

The average size of the offshore turbines installed last year was 7.8 MW. A 12 MW offshore wind turbine was installed in Rotterdam. Offshore wind farms are also getting bigger. The average size doubled – it was 300 MW in 2010. Now it is over 600 MW. The largest is Hornsea 1 in the UK – 1.2 GW.

The launch of the new Portuguese floating project – WindFloat Atlantic, funded by the EU’s NER300 programme, means Europe now has 45 MW of floating offshore wind. France, the UK, Norway and Portugal are all developing new floating projects. France plans to auction a large-scale floating wind farm in 2021, WindEurope said.

Offshore wind costs continue to fall significantly. Last year’s auctions – in the UK, France and the Netherlands – delivered prices for consumers in the range of €40-50/MWh. This is cheaper than building new gas, coal or nuclear.

Last year also saw investment decisions in 4 new offshore wind farms, representing 1.4 GW in capacity and €6 billion in investments.

The European Commission says Europe needs between 230 and 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050 to decarbonise the energy system and deliver the Green Deal. This requires Europe to build 7 GW of new offshore wind a year by 2030 and ramp up to 18 GW a year by 2050. But the current level of new installations and investments is a long way behind that, WindEurope said.

“Europe really embraced offshore wind in 2019. Auction prices showed it’s now cheaper to build offshore wind than new gas or coal plants,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said. Several Governments raised the amount they want to build. This time last year we were looking at 76 GW by 2030. Now it’s 100 GW,” he added.

“But we’re not currently building enough to deliver on that, let alone the more ambitious volumes needed to deliver the Green Deal. The EU Commission says we need up to 450 GW of offshore by 2050. That means 7 GW new offshore wind every year by 2030 and 18 GW onwards by 2050. Last year we built a record amount, but only 3 GW, Dickson said.

He argued that the bigger numbers are doable and affordable. The new EU Offshore Wind Strategy in the Green Deal should map out clearly how to mobilise the investments needed for 450 GW, Dickson said. “Crucially it should provide a masterplan to develop the offshore and onshore grid connections and to get the maritime spatial planning right,” he said, adding that this will require ever closer cooperation between Governments in the North Sea and the Baltic. “And this should also include the UK – they were half of Europe’s investment in offshore wind in the last decade and will remain by far the biggest market,” he said.

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